Tech: What Acoustic Treatment Can Do For You

Written by Chris Thomas of Strewnshank Studio
Indie Ambassador TV Tech Acoustic Treatment

Even a basic Gobo will make your space sound better.

You spent last month’s paycheck on a sweet new mic with a hard-to-pronounce name and a vintage Russian tube and wonder why your tracks still sound like crap. Is it the preamp? The cable? Nope! No amount of hand-wired circuitry can help you here; the acoustics in your tracking space suck!

Indie Ambassador Tv Tech Acoustic Treatment

GIK 242 Acoustic Panel

Unfortunately, acoustic treatment doesn’t get the attention it deserves because it isn’t really “cool” or “sexy,” and the knuckleheads at GuitarMart can’t figure out how to sell it. But it is the single reason that huge name studios make SM57’s sound like gold; they’ve spent thousands on acoustic design and treatment, and things simply sound good in their rooms. If you break down the reality of audio engineering, you’ll realize that all mics sound good in good rooms, and all mics sound bad in bad rooms.  I’d rather have a 57 in a good room than a U87 in a bad room any day.

The good news is that you’ve got a few options, and you can fix your problems for cheap money; make your own acoustic absorbers, or buy some good quality ones at a decent price from a place like GIK Acoustics (steer clear of Auralex or other store brands; they are decent but way too expensive). There are some handy tools on the site that can help guide you to figuring out what you’ll need. If you are smart, you can use RTA equipment to measure your room and determine the places that you need to put treatment. If you aren’t smart enough to do that, then you can actually submit data and pics about your room and the GIK folks will tell you your best options.

Indie Ambassador TV Tech Strewnshank

Owings Corning 703

If you want to make your own, start with Owings Corning 703. You can get it at a variety of sizes, and it makes for amazing insulation if you are going floor-to-ceiling with a build-out. I put three 48”x24”x3” panels in a wooden frame to make a gobo that stands six feet high. I have a few of them and they are supremely handy.

Acoustimac.com has pretty much everything you need for DIY acoustic treatment, and you can also use the site to get some inspiration if you like to scavenge for your own materials. (Do I actually have to make hyperlinks? I assume you’ve heard of google.com… look up DIY acoustics. There are tons of resellers, and they are always competing in price.) Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the 703. If you are really strapped, wrap the 703 in some cheap fabric. It won’t look amazing, but it will work just as well.

If you are low on cash, just make a few gobos (picture at top) and strategically place them in your tracking space. You’ll be surprised how much better a drum set or amp sounds with some of the standing waves and nodes removed.  $300 of acoustic treatment will make all of your mics sound remarkably better, so instead of buying a new corrective EQ or expensive mic, think about making your life easier and recordings better with some inexpensive treatment!

Find all of our tech articles here! 

Chris Thomas owns and operates Strewnshank Studio, a recording studio based in Charlestown, MA. Connect with him on Twitter or Facebook

2 Responses to “Tech: What Acoustic Treatment Can Do For You”

  1. Cooch Money says:

    Your GIK link goes to Auralex.  Otherwise, good article.

Leave a Reply